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3 March 2012
• Camp Nou, Barcelona
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo
• Attendance: 72442
S. Kéita 79'
David Barral 49'
Shots on Target
Full time in Camp Nou. Barcelona temporarily cut Real Madrid's lead to seven points at the top of La LIga thanks to goals from Iniesta, Keita, and Xavi to seal a 3-1 against Sporting. Thank you for joining us on Goal.com! Stay tuned for match report and player ratings!
90' + 2'
You need to hand it to Javier Clemente and Sporting. They saw Barcelona were wounded and went for the jugular. They were unlucky that the class of the hosts eventually shone through.
Barca strutting their stuff on the park now and are playing with a bit of swagger. The third goal was very welcomed for the home side as they potentially faced a very shaky last five minutes.
Assist Andrés Iniesta Luján
GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAL FOR BARCELONA!!! The game is beyond Sporting now! Iniesta dinks a pass through to Xavi and the Barca captain, in true Messi fashion, lifts the ball over the oncoming Juan Pablo! 3-1!
Barca running down the clock now through masterful passing from Xavi and Iniesta. They are showing a remarkably cool head to keep possession under heavy pressure.
Yellow Card Daniel Alves
Well it appears that Barcelona will squeeze a win without Lionel Messi, just. They still need to hold on for another ten minutes or so and Sporting will be very hungry to grab the equaliser.
Yellow Card David Barral
Pep Guardiola reacts quickly to the goal and attempts to tighten things up by introducing Carles Puyol for Isaac Cuenca.
Assist Alexis Sánchez
Goal Seydou Keita
GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAL FOR BARCELONA!!!! Keita is the saviour! The Malian bursts into the area after receiving a pass from Alexis Sanchez and wonderfully curls the ball into the top left corner! Brilliant goal!
Yellow Card S. Eguren
Cuenca picks up the ball on the edge of the box and attempts to squeeze a shot in at Juan Pablo's near post but the Sporting keeper makes an easy save.
Yellow Card Seydou Keita
De las Cuevas
Barcelona showings signs of real frustration now. Seydou Keita and Xavi have both picked up bookings in the last few moments. They need a spark from somewhere, anywhere.
Yellow Card Carmelo
Yellow Card Alejandro Gálvez
Barcelona on the verge of another disappointing draw in La Liga. To all our Twitter followers: Do you think the game would have gone differently if Messi was in the side?
Yellow Card André Castro
Yellow Card Xavi
The fans in the Camp Nou starting to vent their frustrations now. Hard to tell whether they are aimed at the players or the referee. Possibly both. Sporting continue to be solid.
Sporting absorbing a lot of pressure at the moment. Still 20 minutes left which is a long time for a team to withstand a barrage of attacks from Barcelona.
The vast majority of our Twitter followers believe that the absence of Messi has a truly detrimental affect on Barcelona. As it stands their is real evidence to support this. Will they prove us wrong?
Yellow Card De las Cuevas
Sporting manage to temporarily clear the ball and it comes to Mendy down the right flank, but he slips and Adriano comes in with the challenge to claim possession. All Barca at the moment.
It is incredibly crowded just in front of the Sporting box and Barca are struggling to find space to operate. They face a red and white ball any time they are in possession.
Sporting continue to defend very well. They are not allowing Barca to create play on the edge of the box and without a recognised striker in the box for the hosts, Javier Clemente's side are looking solid for the time being.
Double change for Barcelona as Cesc Fabregas and Pedro are replaced by Alexis Sanchez and Cristian Tello.
The pace of the game has calmed down slightly after the crazy opening ten minutes. The hosts starting to regain their composure, but Sporting are playing with a lot more confidence now.
Alves drives forward and exchanges a one-two with Pedro on the edge of the box but the return pass is slightly over-hit and the ball goes into the arms of Juan Pablo.
Barca need to get their act together and get back into their passing game as they looked shell-shocked by the events of the past five minutes. They are a man down but still remain favourites to win if they can play to their strengths.
What an unbelievable start to the second half! In the space of five minutes Barca go from leading to drawing with a man sent off! Incredible entertainment at Camp Nou.
Assist Formose Mendy
Goal David Barral
GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAL FOR SPORTING!!!! Mendy skips past Adriano at left back and drives a cross into the box and David Barral gets just in front of Valdes to squeeze the ball home! What an introduction for the substitute!
Yellow Card Andrés Iniesta Luján
Gerard Pique is sent off!!!! The Barca defender brings down De las Cuevas as the last man at the back and sees red! Early drama in the second half!
Red Card Piqué
The second half has begun at Camp Nou. Sporting must decide whether to stick or twist here. If they come out and attempt to grab a goal more space will be created which will allow Barca room to operate.
Half-time in Camp Nou. Barca frustrated for the majority of the first half but Iniesta comes to the rescue just before the break. Sporting need to come out more in the second half. Join us in 15 minutes for the next 45!
Well Barca beginning to look as if they can handle the match without Lionel Messi. That goal should provide a decent starting block to go ahead and grab a couple more goals.
Goal Andrés Iniesta Luján
GOOOOOOOOOAAAAL FOR BARCELONA!!! Adriano exchanged a lovely one-two with Keita and drives into the box before reversing a pass into the centre for Iniesta who pushes the ball into the empty net! 1-0!
Iniesta attempting to take the game by the scruff of the neck and looks much more sharp in his attacking play. He smashes a shot at goal that is bravely blocked on the edge of the box.
Barca guilty of over-playing things slightly on the edge of the Sporting box. They need to add some intensity and pace into their play are they are playing lethargically.
Sporting have been an attacking non-entity in this match. They have only had a couple of speculative strikes at goal and neither have came anywhere close to troubling Victor Valdes.
@lloydmiller writes: "Sporting's playing with 3 CB's, so Messi's ability to wriggle through defences is missed. Iniesta should take up that initiative" I think that is definitely what is needed, they need someone who can unlock this sturdy defence.
Just over 30 minutes gone at Camp Nou so far and Barcelona are looking very comfortable in possession. However, no top goalscoring chances to speak of so far. As the game goes on without a goal things will only get more nervous for the Barca faithful.
@olarayz2010 writes: "Barca lacks the cutting edge without Messi, he has a way of making goals look so easy. Barca finding it hard to unlock sporting!" That's a very accurate description of the situation. Barca need a spark in the match!
Yellow Card Canella
Yellow Card Ayoze
@OLASKETY writes on Twitter: "They don't really rely on him (Messi) heavily per say, they have xavi, iniesta and fabregas is coming up...i am a fan." They do have other players who are very special but they look to be struggling at the moment!
Ayoze receives the first booking of the match for a hilariously obvious handball right in front of the referee. Barcelona free kick which they take quickly and continue their passing game.
Damian Suarez breaks out from defence and launches a terrific cross-field pass to De las Cuevas that looked destined for his team-mates feet but Mascherano done brilliantly to get back and make the interception.
Formose Mendy finds space in the Barca penalty area but his first touch is poor and his shot is worse. A mis-kicked right-footed strike that was sliced horribly wide.
Small break in play at the moment is Andre Castro is down injured. The Portuguese was just caught in the shin by Seydou Keita but it looks as if he is okay to continue.
A lot of play is going through Isaac Cuenca down the left at the moment. The winger is seeing plenty of the ball and looks very sharp so far.
Possible penalty shout for Barca as Dani Alves is shoved off the ball in the box by Galvez. It could have went either way but the benefit of the doubt it given to the Sporting defender.
What are our thoughts on the first 15 minutes of the match? Barca have dominated so far but who will grab the vital opening goal?
Fantastic run from Adriano as he burst into the Sporting penalty area. The Brazilian then has an attempt on goal but just drags his shot wide of the right-hand post. Good play from the wing-back.
It was ofcourse this fixture last season in which Jose Mourinho accused the then Sporting manager Manuel Preciado of fielding a weakened team against Barcelona, which caused a lot of fall out among the other coaches in the league.
Barca get the ball in the Sporting net but the cheers are subdued due to Pedro being two yards offside when he slipped the ball into the bottom corner. Sporting free kick.
Dani Alves twists and turns down the right-hand side and whips a cross into the near post but Juan Pablo claims the ball out of the air. All Barca so far.
Sporting pick up the ball in midfield and De las Cuevas drives forward but he receives next to no support and Barca manage to snuff out any potential attack.
Barca dictating possession in the early stages of the match with Sporting sitting fairly deeply inside their half. This may be the formula that plays out for the majority of the game.
We are off! Sporting are six points from safety in 19th place in La Liga so Barca should be winning this relatively comfortably. However, how will Guardiola's side fair without Messi?
Barca are aiming to close the gap between themselves and Real Madrid to seven points, with Jose Mourinho's men playing Espanyol tomorrow.
Lets get some predictions in before kick off. What do we reckon the score will be?
Sergio Busquets is also suspended for this match and his place in the starting XI is taken by Seydou Keita.
The main omission from the game this evening is certainly Lionel Messi for Barca, who has picked up five yellow cards this season and is serving his suspension tonight. How will the hosts cope without their Argentine maestro?
This is the starting XI of Sporting: Juan Pablo; Damian, Orfila, Galvez, Botia, Canella; Andre Castro, Nacho Cases; Mendy, De las Cuevas; Ayoze.
The teams are in and this is how Barcelona will be lining up tonight: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Xavi, Keita, Iniesta; Pedro, Cesc, Cuenca.
I'm Martin Macdonald and I will be reporting on the match this evening. You can follow me on Twitter at @MartinMac1 so feel free to post your thoughts, feelings, and predictions on the match! At times during the game I will get some Tweets posted relating to the match so get them in!
Welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of the Spanish Primera Division encounter between Barcelona and Sporting Gijon at Camp Nou.
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